Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How Smart Is This Blog?

"The point is that analytical designs are not to be decided on their convenience to the user or necessarily their readability or what psychologists or decorators think about them; rather, design architectures should be decided on how the architecture assists analytical thinking about evidence." Edward Tufte

I've been dissed by an algorithm. How 21st Century is that?

It could happen to you if you're a fellow blogger or a creator of any personally written web content. Dan Rubin of the Phila Inquirer's blog, Blinq found an interesting little test on readability quotients which he shared in Blinq: Web/Tech.

According to Dan, "Blinq should be a breeze to understand. It's somewhere between the New York Post's Page 6 and Liz Smith for simplicity of style."

Now there's a challenge if I ever saw one. So I too checked out Juicy Studio: Readability Test. It uses a series of complex (to me, anyway) algorithms to measure a variety of indices which determine how hard or easy your blog is to understand.

The Gunning-Fog and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level both measure approximately how many years of school someone needs to understand your content. Anything above 17 is considered post-graduate level. NASA.gov I guess.

My blog falls in somewhere around the 8th grade. Which puts me lower than Page 6 and Liz Smith. In the same ballpark as Readers Digest and popular novels. How is this possible? I went to Penn. And to the Annenberg School of Communications.

My ranking is surely esoteric enough to match InstaPundit. I'm at least as good as--if not better than--Michelle Malkin for cryin out loud. Although let's keep in mind the test is for readability -- not credibility.

And readability is a good thing, especially for a blog. The Flesch Reading Ease index works on a standard 100 point scoring system. The higher the score, the greater the readability. According to the test, "Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70."

Bingo! I rang up 70.85, a more than respectable number. Although ... this means essentially I possess the writing style of Mary Higgens Clark.

That bothers me on two levels. One, I'm not sure I want my dedicated efforts at elucidation, wit and gravitas compared to her inane, trite, tired prose. On the other hand, she makes piles of money with that clearly "readable" prose, and I do this for free.


A conundrum. A word which, by the way, would ramp up my grade level score by at least two years.

Refusing to say Uncle, I checked the scores for my pal Jesse Kornbluth, aka Swami Uptown, the best writer I know and also owner/editor/writer of HeadButler.com. His scores are up there with Daily Kos and InstaPundit, way ahead of Page Six, Liz Smith and even Huffington. No surprise at all.

Well, one tiny confusing bit: Jesse logged the same readability quotient as gossipista Cindy Adams.

Now I know this thing's baloney. Or a Right Wing conspiracy aimed at all Commie Pinko writers who dare to blog.

I'm going to go read a good book now. Or write one.



Blogger Daniel Rubin said...

i must have to do with journalism. grumpy wretches taught us to break complicated ideas and sentences into bite-sized pieces. doesn't mean we're simple-minded. just simply written.

5:13 AM  

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